Economics and dance combine with The Value of Things

It’s not often that the world of dance mixes pleasure with business. Crunching numbers and creating budgets couldn’t be further from the scene of a spotlit stage, lithe bodies twirling in the air. But the two disparate worlds of economy and art become intertwined in the upcoming production The Value of Things, from Montreal artist and jack-of-all-trades Jaques Poulin-Denis and his company Grand Poney.

“Everything comes down to economics which is really crazy, really insane,” said Poulin-Denis. “It feels, sometimes ... like a psychological malfunction that we have this fear of economics and that we really let that one small you know element of our lives become master of our lives in many ways.”

It is with this in mind that the creator embarked on a two-year-long process to bring to life a theatrical dance performance. He drew on the themes of money, motivation and the modern human condition.

“There’s a very strong documentary or dramaturgic component,” said Poulin-Denis. “I wanted to make this piece about the value of things so that was the first thing that happened. That was the inspiration or the idea ... to kind of question how we, as a society, evaluate the value of things and the cost versus the value, and how finances really come to rule most of the decisions we make as a society be it political or social.”

The work features contemporary dance, but doesn’t stop there. Poulin-Denis is just as interested in mixing mediums as he is subject matter; the show features live music and abundant dialogue -- in translation from the original French -- which turns the typical premise of a dance performance on its head.

“I wanted to try was to reconfigure the way a cast holds a space or presents a show,” said Poulin-Denis. “Choreographers usually try to make everything very balanced: everybody has their solo, everybody has their moment and I kind of wanted to rethink that perspective. In a way it’s kind of more like a theatre cast, where there’s a main character and secondary characters.”

Poulin-Denis, who works with his close friends James Gnam and Francis d’Octobre, as well as his brother Gilles Poulin-Denis on this production, is no stranger to the multidisciplinary approach.

“I think The Value of Things has gotten much closer to a true interdisciplinary piece in the sense that all three disciplines are kind of woven together,” he said.

The four each had a hand in the many aspects of the piece that Poulin-Denis wanted to bring together. While all of them perform onstage, Gilles Poulin-Denis was also the production’s dramaturge, Gnam choreographed, and d’Octobre composed the music he will be playing onstage. Jaques Poulin-Denis also participated in these aspects -- researching, choreographing and composing -- on top of being the show’s principal performer.

The Value of Things marks a milestone in Poulin-Denis’ career: “I feel like there is something I accomplished with this piece that I’ve never done before,” he said. “I think I could say with The Value of Things I entered the adult phase or, I guess, I came out of my teenage phase of my creative life. Now I’m more interested in what is said.”

The show promises to be provocative and philosophical as well as artistically idiosyncratic.

“My main hope is that [the audience] will have this experience where they consider, or ask themselves some questions and consider, or take a moment to reflect, in a way,” said Poulin-Denis. “It’s not so much about entertainment as it is about reflection and philosophy.”

The Value of Things is at the Scotiabank Dance Centre from June 17-20.